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Porosity Kabari… Ideas that passed through junk.

‘Porosity Kabari’ by Trent Jansen, Richard Goodwin and Ishan Khosla is exhibiting at the Nishi Gallery in Canberra until Sunday 9 July.

‘Porosity Kabari’ is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, collaborative project between Australian object designer Trent Jansen, artist and architect Richard Goodwin, and Indian design thinker Ishan Khosla.

The trio worked over three weeks to produce furniture and object pieces made from materials and craftsmanship sourced solely from the ‘Chor Bazaar’ (thieves market) and ‘Kabari Bazaars’ (junk markets) in Mumbai, India.

The project is aptly named. Porosity – the ability of a membrane or material to let liquid and gases pass through it; or in this case ideas and people. Kabari – the Hindi work for junk.

The market neighbourhoods within which this project took place are where many of India’s useful objects end up. It is also where they are often given a second life – car panels are transformed into ad-hock cookers and old clothing is quilted into rugs for snake charmers. The designers learnt from conversation and experimentation with the vendors and crafts people working in these manic marketplaces.

The process challenged them to ‘make something from something else’ – the essence of sustainable design. In a society such as India, without many of the common social safeguards that other “more economically developed” nations enjoy, the survival is determined by people’s ability to be creative and resourceful. India is a place where resourcefulness is part of the everyday. On the flip side, developed nations struggle with the environmental implications of designed obsolescence and disposable consumption. This project forced the designers to adopt a human oriented design approach and to make do with what was on hand.


Works by Trent Jansen

For this project Trent Jansen explored the process of jugaad – of doing just enough with what you have on hand and figuring it out as you go. At first it made him a little nervous. In contrast to his usual thoroughly researched projects; and used to working through production processes in a strict and controlled environment; this three week jugaad process was a free fall.

The process was based on observations and reactions – generating ideas by improvising forms based on those that were possible and using the techniques and materials that were readily available. It was also improvised – options and problems were decided upon and solved as solutions came to mind and were therefore also dependant on current mood and state of mind. These reflexive decisions based on availability and mood determined the destiny of each object.

Jansen made a stool, side table and crockery from terracotta, ‘Jugaad with Pottery’, with potter Abbas Galwani; and stools from metal with a small metal workshop, reshaping a car bonnet, copper panels and copper rivets, ‘Jugaad with Car Parts’.

For ‘Dropping a Kubhar Wala Matka’ Jansen pays homage to Ai Wei Wei’s controversial work, ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’, 1995. In this work, Abbas Galwani, a kumbhar wala (potter) living and working in Dharavi, drops a traditional Indian Matka. With this act, Abbas denounces the cultural structures that restrict his social mobility, impede his ability to gain recognition and respect for his unquestionable skill, and hinder his capacity to provide for his family. The piece is a critique of the traditions and history that underpin Indian social conventions. In India, the kumbhar wala is among the lower castes, meaning that these craftspeople, who make functional objects serving millions of Indians on a daily basis, do not earn the respect that they deserve for their role within Indian society.


Works by Richard Goodwin

With his ‘Binary Maquettes’ Goodwin explores the ratio of the golden mean (1:√2 – one as to the square root of two) a mathematical ratio found in nature and used in design to create compositions that are in proportion. In ancient Greek philosophy, the golden mean is the desirable middle state between excess and deficiency. With these maquettes Goodwin investigates the current threats to our existence as human beings.

With his installation ‘1-√2 Charpai For Mumbai’ Goodwin combines a motor scooter and an Indian charpai bed. With this high-rise bed on the move he explores where the body ends and architecture begins. He ponders on the lessons that the Mumbai slums can offer for 21st century architecture – by drawing on its highly developed social constructions, the problems there can be continuously addressed by the people that live and work there.

With his ‘Klein Chair’ Goodwin explores his obsession with the Klein bottle – in mathematics, an impossible vessel that swallows itself, it has no inside or outside.


Works by Ishan Khosla

Khosla’s works meditate on his contemporary India.

‘Construct:Deconstruct’ is a collection of furniture made from found objects and pieces of wood scavenged from the streets of Mumbai. It references the cycle of material use and reuse (and further reuse) in India. These naïve objects don’t follow any design principles, choosing instead to emulate or force gestures – for example a stool that forces the sitter to prop one of their feet up (a common sitting pose in India).

‘Partition of the Mind’ represents the division between idealised “progress” and the economy in India versus traditional values and ideals of egalitarianism. With everyday domestic objects – brass thali, lassi glasses and tifins; Khosla speaks of the endless cycle of consumerism and desire in his globalised India and the increase in the divide between those with plenty and those with nothing.

‘Porosity Kabari’ is exhibiting at the Nishi Gallery in Canberra until Sunday 9 July.

Portrait of Abbas Galwani for 'Dropping A Kumbhar Wala Matka' by Trent Jansen. Shot by Trent Jansen. An homage to Ai Wei Wei’s controversial work, ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’, 1995.

'Dropping A Kumbhar Wala Matka' by Trent Jansen. Shot by Neville Sukhia.

'1-√2 Charpai For Mumbai' by Richard Goodwin. Shot by Neville Sukhia.

'Klein Chair' by Richard Goodwin. Shot by Neville Sukhia.

'Construct:Deconstruct' by Ishan Khosla. Shot by Neville Sukhia.

'Partition of the Mind' by Ishan Khosla. Shot by Neville Sukhia.

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Things we are thinking about,
people we've met and what’s on in Canberra.

  • Stories
  • People
  • Daily Rituals
  • Fix and Make
  • What's On

Porosity Kabari… Ideas that passed through junk.

Brutti ma Buoni

An Ode to Désirée


Suzi McKinnon and Jai Tongbor

Adam and Amy Coombes

Sam and Claire Johnson

The daily rituals of Matt and Lentil

The daily rituals of others (part two)

The ritual of limbering up

Oyster dressing with guanciale with piquillo peppers, basil and chilli

How to make toys from trash

Shelter: Life on the Move talk with Rebecca Roke

WHEN Wednesday 5 July, 12:30PM - 1:15PM
WHERE Mosaic Room, Hotel Hotel

Salt Room

WHEN Friday 7 July, from 7:30PM


WHEN Runs 28 June to 9 July

Sound and Fury: Cold Winter. Hot Party.

WHEN Saturday 15 July, 8PM to late
WHERE Nishi Gallery

Kids’ Cushion Concert with CSO

WHEN Tuesday 11 July, 10AM and 11.15AM
WHERE Nishi Grand Staircase

Winter Strings in the Salon

WHEN Sunday 23 July from 1PM to 3PM
WHERE The Monster kitchen and bar in the Salon

The beginning of genius is being scared shitless. ― Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Daily Rituals, Stories, Visual Essay

Daily Rituals by Jessica Tremp

Jessica Tremp came to stay and she took some photos while she was here. We made a visual essay with them.

Jessica Tremp came to stay and she took some photos while she was here. We made a visual essay with them.

Daily Rituals, Stories

New rituals for play

Brutti was very Buoni

'Brutti ma Buoni' is the name of a biscuit.

It literally translates from Italian as 'ugly but nice'. It's also the name of the short film we commissioned about Brutalist architecture in Canberra. Co-directed by Coco & Maximilian and U-P the film's score is a live one performed by Speak Percussion.

Brutalist buildings are polarising beasts. Over here, we love them dearly. Some see them as oppressive and unliveable. We wanted to try and understand them in a different way - just through our eyes and ears.

Canberra's reception of the little Brutti last Friday at the Nishi Gallery was immense. We wanted to give everyone a big kiss on the mouth for coming out in the cold and for being a beautiful and thoughtful crowd. After the screening Tilman played modern minimalist records. We drank Monster cocktails and wine and talked about the need to protect and preserve our big Canberra brutes.

Below are some photos of the night shot by Arnad Hajdic.

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Brutti ma Buoni

Screening on Friday 2 June from 6.30PM at the Nishi Gallery. Monster will be running a cash bar. This event is free (like air) but spots are limited (like water) so please RSVP here.

‘Brutti ma Buoni’ is a commissioned work by Hotel Hotel which seeks to build knowledge and appreciation of Brutalist architecture in Canberra.

The work consists of two parts – a short film of Brutalist buildings, co-directed by Coco & Maximilian and U-P; and an accompanying score by Speak Percussion that interprets them aurally. Together they observe and orchestrally arrange Brutalism.

The screening and performance work together to create a different experience of Brutalism – one that doesn’t ask us what we think, but rather, one that asks us to feel and question Brutalist architecture with our senses.

What can we see when we really look at these monolithic structures in detail? When holding our gaze what do their rough textures, shadows and unadorned geometries reveal? What might these beasts sound like? Cavernous and vast? Drone-like? Repetitive? Hypnotic? Oppressive, optimistic or sublime?

This is the first screening and performance of ‘Brutti ma Buoni’ in Canberra – Australia’s home of Brutalism.

After the screening, Australian composer and sound designer Tilman Robinson will play a vinyl set with 20th century art music, modern minimalism and experimental music that reflects on the stark and modular nature of the brutalist-style.

‘Brutti ma Buoni’ features the interiors and exteriors of some of Canberra’s most notable Brutalist buildings including Llewellyn Hall, National Gallery of Australia, National Carillon, High Court of Australia, University of Canberra Village, and Black Mountain Library.

Here is a preview. Tix here.

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Somewhere Else

Photography by Abigail Varney.

Original room
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens
View from Telstra Tower
Hotel Hotel
The Shine Dome
The Shine Dome
Xanthorrhoea johnsonii at the National Gallery of Australia
Telstra Tower
Telstra Tower

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Angélique’s raspberry, lychee and rose tartlets

Makes 6


  • Crust

    Filo pastry
    100 grams of butter
    50 grams of icing sugar

    Ricotta cream

    200 grams fresh ricotta
    200 grams Philadelphia cream cheese
    1 tablespoon rose water
    1 vanilla pod
    100 grams of icing sugar


    One punnet of fresh raspberries
    1 tin lychees
    Rose petals (you can find dry ones at Essential Ingredient or dry your own from your garden).



Making your own filo pastry takes a long time so I propose you use the shop bought Fillo Pastry brand. It has a nice crunchy texture and you can get it at most supermarkets.

Set yourself up on your work bench and lay the pastry flat. Separate the sheets with lots of care and brush each sheet one with the melted butter and sprinkle icing sugar over them to sweeten the crust. Repeat this with ten sheets and lay the sheets one on top over the other.

Just a side note on butter. Contrary to popular belief, butter is not the villain everyone says it is, especially if you use real, good quality butter. I suggest the unsalted Pepe Saya, it’s perfect.

Work quickly as the filo pastry tends to dry out.

Then cut the sheets in two length wise and in three width wise, this will give you six bases. Put each one into a baking tin that are around 5 centimeters in diameter (a muffin tin will work).

Don’t forget to press the base all around the tins to avoid them cooking into a funny shape.

Now it’s time to bake them at 180° Celsius for 10 to 15 minutes.

Ricotta cream

Use an electric mixer and the paddle attachment to gently work the cream cheese for five minutes.

Then add the sugar and vanilla with love.

Before adding the ricotta the cream must be soft and fluffy. If it is go ahead and finish it with the secret ingredient – rose water.


Take your filo cases out of the oven and let them cool a little. Then fill them to the top with the ricotta cream. Depending on how you feel top with as many lychees and raspberries as you want.

Arrange them and decorate them with the rose petals. These are really nice served with vanilla ice cream or berry sorbet. Or you can drizzle them with honey and eat them as they are.

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Xylouris White

You can’t walk into a Xylouris White gig and not not walk out a little different.

They tap into something primal, spiritual? – they blow away the modern skins of the body and leave you with just your ancient bones.

Through them we get to connect to our distant past. A reflex. It’s not music from someplace but music from everyplace. It’s music that reminds us that, despite our differences, inside, in this way, we are all the same.

Xylouris White came to play for us in the Monster Salon and Dining rooms on Saturday 11 March.

Xylouris White are George Xylouris and Jim White. Together their music is one of conversation and shared authorship. George is a Cretan singer and lute player – an instrument with a history of more than 3000 years that crosses borders like few others do. He sings in a deep baritone that vibrates through your core. Jim White is part of Melbourne’s enormously and long loved instrumental rock trio ‘Dirty Three’. He moves like a deep sea animal gliding from soldier's beats to ferocious to soft delicate sounds.

But first, we ate. Monster kitchen and bar chef Sean McConnell made us dinner based on things he had eaten on a recent trip to Athens. We served each other from small plates of fava beans, chicory and calamari. Pan-fried haloumi with tiny slivers of okra. Baked eggplant with Labna. Fish bones piled up on our plates as we ate sardines and small red fish in barbounaki style. We drank Ouzo and wine from Kelafonia, Thessaloniki and the Peloponnese.

Then came the music. The corked walls, terrazzo floors and low-hung perforated panelled wooden roof created a resonant sound that you couldn't escape from. There is no stage in there, so it felt like they were playing to us in our own family room.

Xylouris White played for two hours straight, treating us to two traditional syrtos that made the Greeks amongst us that night go a little wild. They twisted back and forth between an unstoppable barrage of power and gooey, transcendental melody. The final two songs had us all on our feet. The sounds they were making together seemed impossible. We were overcome.

Ευχαριστώ. Please come back soon.

Written by Dan Honey and Stéph Donse. Images shot by Will Neill. Song, 'Forging' by Xylouris White from their 'Black Peak' album.

Jim White and George Xylouris
Nikos on the decks
Jim White
Xylouris White

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#hotelhotel #hotelhotel #hotelhotel #hotelhotel #hotelhotel
'Stuck on you' made by Kirsten Perry.

'Stuck on you' made by Kirsten Perry.

Written by Dr Anika Ramholdt for the exhibition ‘Not Wow’ – new works by Kirsten Perry shown at Mr Kitly gallery (Melbourne) in October 2016. 

Perry’s ceramics works, presented by Mr Kitly, are coming to Canberra to stay a while in the Cabinets on the ground floor. They’ll be on show from Saturday 11 March until Sunday 30 April.

There’s a lot of noise out there. Amidst the relentless wellness dogma and never-ending dog memes (although they’re pretty awesome), there’s very little space for personal reverie. That’s why it’s so refreshing to encounter objects and spaces (perhaps even people if we’re lucky), which we can experience intuitively rather than intelligibly. Things, which via their modesty, creep up on us slowly and affect us profoundly.

The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi is pertinent to this idea. Often defined simplistically as a ‘nature based aesthetic paradigm’ [1] that celebrates the imperfect, accidental and modest, wabi-sabi is a complex and arguably indefinable nexus of spiritualism and the material world.

In his writing on wabi-sabi, Leonard Koren attempts to elucidate the characteristics of the aesthetic as private, idiosyncratic, intuitive, variable, natural, crude, ambiguous, impermanent and warm. The wabi-sabi universe, according to Koren, is where ‘things are either devolving toward, or evolving from, nothingness’[2]. Its objects and spaces are simultaneously crude and ancient, becoming and decaying. In this realm ‘beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness’ [3] and there is an obvious reverence for materiality, transience and impermanence.

Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic that can be all too easily ascribed to what Koren describes as ‘ostentatious austerity.’[4] Just because something has the hashtag of #authentic, #rustic or #totesnatural doesn’t mean that it innately typifies the cyclical nature of being and nothingness. We’re not all elevated to a state of spiritual ascension by a roughly whittled spoon, although we might be. Just because you’ve attached the doorknob poorly doesn’t make you a master of Zen balance. Entirely subjective, a wabi-sabi expression for one may be dismissed as insipidly quirky or just plain lazy by another. The essence of wabi-sabi, as I’ve come to understand it, lies in the invocation of transience, the reminder that nothing is permanent and therefore perfection is an impossible ideal.

We live in the wow. Floating in this soup of the over-cooked it’s sometimes nice to swim with the onions, to find something humble, to stumble upon a reliable pulse. Sipping at an ok but not particular wow green smoothie, it occurs to me that it’s hard out there for a Désirée potato; things aren’t what they used to be for white foods. In the ever-changing whirlwind of values and ideals it seems important to make one’s own shrine (metaphorically or otherwise) to that we she finds holy. Inside our private niche we pin and prop the objects, memories, values and experiences that pave the way to our unique ascension. Where personal reverie may eclipse for a moment the onslaught of dogma and dog memes and we can light a candle for poor Désirée, if that’s how we roll.

1 Koren, Leonard, ‘Wabi-Sabi for artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers’ (Berkley, California: Stone Bridge Press, 1994), 9.
2 Koren, 40.
3 Koren, 51.
4 Koren, 72.

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‘Centre for Advanced Imaging’ at the University of Queensland in St Lucia, Brisbane, designed by JWA in association with Wilson Architects in 2013. Photographed by Peter Bennett.


Context is a material to work with.

Our memories of particular types of form and their relationship to place can make for architecture dissonance and resonance.

Working with the public realm, moments can be found where the prosaic requirements of a bridge are recognised as a mechanism to frame civic space.

One building for work, another for the weekend – both seek to transform and amplify a material condition.


The words above have been lifted from John Wardle Architect’s recent monograph ‘This Building Likes Me‘. The book assembles thirty-six JWA projects as pairs, documented through photographs, drawings and models. The relationships between these pairs are sometimes obvious and sometimes obscure. It is also littered with short critical essays and reflections on contemporary architectural processes, preoccupations and projects…

The book has been extended from the page to the physical space with an exhibition called ‘Coincidences’. It is an interrogation into the boundaries between public and private spaces. Can a foyer have the intimacy of a living room? How might a house have the civic atmosphere of a university hall? These are questions we like.

This interrogation has been carried out by a number of prominent architectural photographers – Sharyn Cairns, Erieta Attali, Sam Noonan, Kristoffer Paulsen, Brett Boardman, Earl Carter, Peter Hyatt, Dianna Snape, Peter Bennett, John Gollings, Shannon McGrath, Trevor Mein, Max Creasy and artist, Peter Kennedy.

The photographers each visited two JWA buildings and took a single image of each site. The images are presented as a pair; thus drawing out points of commonality, ‘coincidences’, across seemingly unconnected architectural contexts.

We are presenting ‘Coincidences’ at the Nishi Gallery as part of our ongoing study of public and private realms and the ephemeral borders that connect and divide them.


‘Coincidences’ will be on show at the Nishi Gallery until 17 February.

We are having a little shindig on Friday 3 February to celebrate. At the Nishi Gallery from 6PM. Come and have a wine and a chat.

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The Grand Stair

The grand stair leads up to Hotel Hotel ground floor and the Monster kitchen and bar…

She’s a pretty thing. She has won a number of awards including ‘World Interior of the Year’ (in 2015 at the World Festival of Interiors in Singapore) and the ‘National Award for Interior Architecture’ (in 2014 from the Australian Institute of Architects).

The stair was designed in collaboration between (our parents) Molonglo Group, March Studio and Oculus; and built by artisan carpenters, CBD Contracting, and carpenter Steve from Deep in the Woods over five months.

We had a chat to Rodney Eggleston from March Studio about the process of making the stair which consists of stair treads and a huge overhanging installation… The gist of the process is as follows – let the location inform the materials and then let the materials inform the design. In Nishi’s case, the creative catalyst was the splendour of the construction site itself: chaotic but precise. March also prescribes to the philosophy of “letting the material be the material” by using them in their natural state.

This process, inspiration and philosophy led to the sourcing of reclaimed timber collected from a house; a basketball court; from the Nishi construction site itself; and from off cuts of Nishi’s own lovely Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) timber façade.

The ceiling feature consists of 2150 pieces of said reclaimed wood and “then shiteloads more in the stair”, and 1200 steel rods that hold the wood in place. Because of the different wood widths and sizes, no two steel rods are the same, and each one was individually designed with holes of different widths, and at different distances to each other. The intricate and precise nature of the detailing is mental. Their kindred maker spirits, CBD, patiently cut and drilled the wood and steel according to the never-ending master plan and slowly shaped the stair over five months. Steve from Deep in the Woods cut and assembled the jenga style stair treads.

The Grand Stair shot by Tom Roe

The Grand Stair shot by Tom Roe

The Grand Stair shot by Tom Roe

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This week

What's on in Canberra in June

Monthly Calendar

Art, Dance, Design, Eat Drink, Film, Fix and Make, Live, Market, Music, Party, Shop, Talk, Walkabout, Workshop

The Best of What’s On in Canberra in June




Bro..och - a collection of brooches.

WHENExhibition runs 16 June - 8 July


WO Arthur Streeton Golden summer, Eaglemont 1889, National Gallery of Australia, purchased 1995

Australian Impressionism

An exhibition of Australian Impressionist paintings from the likes of Tom Roberts, Charles Douglas Richardson and Arthur Streeton.

WHENFrom Saturday 24 June
WHERENational Gallery of Australia


WO Manuel Álvarez Bravo El ensueño [The daydream] 1931, National Gallery of Australia, purchased 1978

Mexican Modernism

Mexico after the Mexican Revolution and its subsequent independence from Spain. An exhibition of photographs that at once witnessed and created a new post-revolutionary identity.

WHENUntil Sunday 26 November
WHERENational Gallery of Australia


Nicole Breedon_Cut the Air With a Knife_2016_Looped video copy


Hoods brings together four artists whose art practices investigate their urban environments, pop culture and sub cultures: Nicole Breedon, Sean Davey, Rowan Kane and Paul Williams.

WHENRuns 7 - 25 June
WHEREANCA Gallery Dickson


WO Aviary 2


A collection of works of birds - sculptures, paintings, prints and drawings. Jan Brown, Linda Davy, Nicola Dickson, Annie Franklin, Kevin Gilbert, Patsy Hely, Steven Holland, and Danie Mellor.

WHENUntil Sunday 30 July

Art Fix and Make Workshop

WO Sally Blake 2

Making as Meditation: Patterns from plants 2

Meditative workshop with Sally Blake - making repetitive patterns using locally collected pressed plant matter to an original soundtrack by Dylan Martorell of sounds from the Botanical Gardens.

WHENSunday 25 June from 3PM to 4.30PM
WHEREMosaic room at Hotel Hotel


Steph Hughes

Oi Oi Oi

Representations of the Australian landscape from a bunch of disciplines and social, political and environmental viewpoints.

WHENWednesday 14 June to Saturday 1 July
WHERETributary Projects

Art Design

170410 Partition of the Mind by Ishan Khosla © Neville Sukhia1

Porosity Kabari

An exhibition by object designer Trent Jansen, artist/architect Richard Goodwin and design thinker Ishan Khosla of objects made from materials and craft sourced solely from Mumbai's junk markets.

WHENOpens on Friday 9 June at 6PM and runs until Sunday 9 July
WHERENishi Gallery


WO Rasho02

Essential Kurosawa

Seven films by the great Akira Kurosawa selected by the great David Stratton.

WHENScreenings between 14 and 30 June
WHEREArc Cinema
COSTSeason pass $80/75


WO Archie Moore Aboriginal Anarchy 2012, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2013

Defying Empire

'Defying Empire' - the third national Indigenous art triennial.

WHENFrom Friday 26 May to Sunday 10 September
WHERENational Gallery of Australia


Rodel Tapaya

Rodel Tapaya

A newly commissioned triptych by Filipino artist, Rodel Tapaya - 'The promise land: the moon, the sun, the stars' (2016), as well as paintings, works on paper and sculptural installations.

WHENUntil Sunday 20 August
WHERENGA, Contemporary galleries



Pipilotti Rist – ‘Worry Will Vanish Revelation’

The ever amazing Pipilotti Rist is in town with this immersive projection work that asks you to slow down, step inside the human, and dissolve your mind.

WHENUntil Sunday 20 August
WHERENational Gallery of Australia



Within Without

A major Skyspace by American artist James Turrell. It's a beauty - a pyramid, a stupa, a viewing chamber, an offering to and from the sun gods.

WHENEvery day at sunset and sunrise
WHERENational Gallery of Australia



Yoga with Odona

Yoga in the Shed. Classes are free for Hotel Hotel guests. Just ask for a code at reception and book online.

WHENMonday 6.15PM to 7.30PM. Tuesday 12PM to 1PM, Wednesday 6.45AM to 7.45AM. Thursday 6.15PM to 7.30PM. Saturday 8AM to 9.15AM.
WHERELevel 8, NewActon Nishi  2 Phillip Law Street, Canberra.
COST$18 / free for Hotel Hotel guests (just ask reception for a booking code).
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Same Same Different

When we asked Italian architect Gianmatteo Romegialli to tell us the history of his friendship with (Italian born and now) Canberra based architect Enrico Taglietti he wrote us a letter.

It’s an introduction to the pair, their mutual passion for, though at times disparate approaches to, architecture. It’s also a reminder that, on all matters, not only architecture, when we start from a place of friendship and love, disagreements help us grow.

On Sunday 15 January Gianmatteo and Enrico will be talking about freedom and constraints, architectural history, heritage and inheritance, breaking orthodoxies, structure, landscape, context and culture, and the beauty and poetry of the built space… And they are letting us listen in.

Same Same Different‘, Sunday 15 January at 3PM at the Monster’s Salon and Dining rooms at Hotel Hotel.


Dear Dan,

Like you requested I will try in my “very bad english” to tell you the long story of my friendship with Enrico…

I am an architect, I grew up in a family of architects (father, mother, sister, wife).

During my years at Milan Politecnico, in the 80’s, I was attracted to the architectural magazines that had always circulated at home…. In those years there began to appear some of Glenn Murcutt’s first projects. At this time I did not know anything of Australia but I was attracted by countries with large open spaces and great wilderness. So when I saw for the first time Murcutt’s projects I was absolutely fascinated. Those small and delicate houses that confronted such a wonderful nature were for me an absolute novelty. From that time began my desire to go and visit the Australian continent at my first chance. I was lucky!

In 1988 I received my degree from the Politecnico in Milano and I started to collaborate with Sergio Crotti my thesis professor. As often happens in such circumstances, I was working late at night some years later, with other young colleagues in Crotti’s studio for an architectural competition and talking with them I expressed my strong desire to visit Australia and its contemporary architecture.

The colleague and friend sitting next to me, Massimo Tadi, told me:

“Gianmatteo, if you want to visit Australia I’ll be happy to go with you. It has been many years that I have the desire to visit my dear uncle Enrico who lives in Canberra. He is an architect and he has made and is making projects for some of the most interesting Australian buildings…”

This seemed to me a great fortune and coincidence, and so we organized our first Australian trip for August 1995.

Our desire was to meet Massimo’s uncle, Enrico, and his family, and organize an interview hopefully to be published in an Italian architectural magazines. Last but not least we wanted to make a long trip through Australia in search of interesting architecture.

When we arrived in Canberra Enrico won our hearts with his architectural ideas, building projects, his kindness and unique personality.

Enrico with his knowledge and contacts indicated Australian architects who we should try to meet during our trip. So we set off by car to discover Australia and its architecture…

It was a wonderful and unforgettable trip of three months. We travelled through Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Uluru, Darwin, Tennant Creek, Mount Isa, Cairns, and Sydney, all by car…

This trip was my first contact with Australian architecture… We saw wonderful projects by Harry Seidler, Colin Madigan, Robin Boyd and so on… When we arrived in Darwin we were lucky to be able to visit the Troppo Architects studio. And the Bowali Visitor Centre in Kakadu National Park designed by Troppo and Glenn Murcutt…

When we returned to Canberra Enrico had prepared for us a real big gift. He had phoned Glenn Murcutt saying that there were two young Italian architects in Australia that dreamed of interviewing him, and he accepted.

So that was that, thanks to Enrico, we were to meet Glenn.

It was a memorable meeting in a pub in Sydney, where for more than an hour Murcutt told us of his projects, of his ideas about architecture, whilst drawing on the pub napkins …

My friendship with Enrico began with this “1995 unforgettable trip”.

A couple of years later, in 1997, Enrico invited Massimo and I to join him in working on the competition for the Kingston Foreshore. I spent two months in Canberra working on the project and competition draft.

During our long and animated discussions on the competition project and the city of Canberra I started to understand Enrico’s interest and deep passion for his city that he loved and called the “non-city”.

From this first collaboration a deep friendship was born that continues today.

From then on began a constant exchange of point of views on architecture, our work, our current projects. From that time, Enrico has made me deeply know the protagonists of Australian architecture, made me passionate about the problems and the beauty of Canberra.

Over the years during my many trips to Canberra, I have visited almost all the buildings designed by Enrico and this has contributed to change and advance my idea of architecture.

With Enrico I worked in recent years also on a project to expand his beautiful villa in Sydney and, in 2013, I helped draw up a document-project-complaint of Canberra and its urban vision for the future entitled ‘Cassandra’ in defence of the uniqueness and identity of this beautiful city.

We also took many wonderful trips together. In Europe we visited key-works of the modern movement, especially the works of Le Corbusier who we had both studied at the Politecnico (him in the 50’s and me in the 80’s).

In 2013, Enrico invited me to visit Chandigarh in India, always on the trail of Corbu the master…

During more than twenty years of friendship with Enrico we faced tireless discussions on the work we do and we love.

Enrico told me of his passion for the void… of his youth spent in the infinite spaces of the Ethiopian highlands…. about his time at Politecnico and arriving in Australia in 1955, where he was kidnapped by the beauty of the landscape, the light, the silence and space of this land.

I think Enrico was very brave, looking for a place where you can cut with the past, “sever ties” with the Academy, with the operational orthodoxy that form architects in universities. And in Australia he found that.

We have often discussed the different moments in which we studied at the Politecnico 1950 and 1980, and then about our obvious different approach to the project.

Enrico in Australia seems to me very lucky, he can today continue his “leap of faith” that the modern movement considered necessary to change the architecture and people’s lives. Enrico’s projects are made in relation to the tectonic nature and ancient (almost prehistoric) Australian landscape. But they are also free from the constraints of history and seek only the beauty and poetry of the built space.

His projects break the boundaries of architectural space by tilting windows and abolishing the composition of the façade; drawing only a fence that is confronted with the landscape and a roof. The facades are shadows…

For him there is no border between the interior and exterior of a space, home and interior design are one and the same…

Conversely my academic training at the Politecnico in the 80’s formed me under the influence of the writings of Aldo Rossi and Vittorio Gregotti – a contemporary vision of architecture in search of a closer relationship with the shape of the city and its history, architecture design through the archetypes …Constantly referring to places and their history and culture.

Over the years I’ve learned and discovered with Enrico that probably there is no single answer to the problem and the exchange of opinions and passionate ideas can help you get a better view of possible paths to take.

As it probably is necessary in design to both “jump into the void” and “dig” at the same time in our history.

How different it is to be an Australian architect in Australia and to be an Italian architect working in my land Italy.

These discussions with Enrico about architecture (and life) are one of the most beautiful things that have happened to me in life and I want to continue to fight and argue with him.

Thank you Enrico.


Gianmatteo Romegialli.



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